Collegiate emerged as the champions of the inaugural SPAR Eastern Cape Schoolgirls Hockey Challenge when they defeated Pearson in a thrilling final at Collegiate in Port Elizabeth yesterday.

In a tournament where the matches are limited to 20 minutes, the pressure is intense from the outset and it was no different in Sunday’s final.

The match flowed from end to end before Collegiate eventually broke through, with Kristen Kirchner getting the final touch to find the goals with four minutes remaining.

Pearson never stopped trying and came back strongly to force their way into the Collegiate circle. However, Collegiate’s defence stood firm and they eventually cleared the ball, followed shortly by the final hooter.

The tournament was the first of a series of regional events in the SPAR Eastern Cape Schoolgirls Hockey Challenge which has been set up this year under the management of regional director Peter Wilson.

Eight schools competed at Collegiate and this will evolve into a total of 60 being involved in five events.

Ten schools will compete in the PE North section, which takes place in Grahamstown next weekend. The other tournaments are East London Coastal, East London Inland and South Western Districts.

“It gives schools who sometimes don’t get the chance to compete at this level the chance to gain some exposure,” said Wilson.

He said the five regional winners would meet in the Eastern Cape finals at Woodridge on August 13.

The idea, which originated in KwaZulu-Natal, is the brainchild of former SA women’s hockey manager Les Galloway, now the national tournament director.

“SPAR came to me in KwaZulu-Natal and asked to come up with something in which they could get involved,” said Galloway.

“As hockey is my passion, I developed this tournament to create greater interaction between schools who normally might not play against each other, while also using the chance to develop umpires and to give them a chance of displaying their skills.

“We have been going for six years in KZN and it has been such a success that schools now phone me up to find when the SPAR Challenge is being held before they organise their annual calendar.

“The emphasis is on having fun and making new friends, while also not forgetting the competitive element on the field.”

The Western Cape event began last year and Galloway is hoping to extend the concept to the central and northern provinces as well.

SPAR Eastern Cape promotions and marketing manager Wendy Westraadt was thrilled with the vibe and the competition provided for the hockey players.

“It’s not something we have done before but what a blast we’ve had and it was so well organised. We are so happy to be involved.

“The support we have had from the parents and the children has been fantastic and we are looking forward to the remaining tournaments.”

Issued by: Coetzee Gouws
On behalf of: SPAR Eastern Cape